Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Home for the Doro Worms

Twelve days have passed since we met the doro worms, and Silkworm and I have been working on making a proper home for them ever since. At first, we intended to build a structure out by the woods. All the blueprints had been drawn up and the materials were at hand. We planned to get to work early tomorrow, but after Silkworm's powers serendipitously enchanted a tiny wind chime birdhouse we decorated together this morning, making it much bigger on the inside than it was on the outside, we decided that would make a perfect sanctuary--and furthermore, we could even keep it hanging in the bedroom.

When we brought it out to the woods this afternoon to invite the doro worms in, they were initially puzzled (because of the size, of course), but once we persuaded them to wiggle inside, they could not have been more ecstatic. After yesterday's rather unpleasant storm, they were deeply grateful to have shelter. We were showered with thanks and compliments, and the king even gave us another spool of gold thread to show his appreciation. We'll have to find a use for it soon!

Finally, they settled in, and Silkworm and I took them back inside and hung the house up in the corner of the bedroom. They haven't stopped poking their heads out (and jingling the chimes every time) to thank us over and over, as if they keep discovering more features inside that a hundred thanks do not already cover. One even communicated a thank you for a spinning room, which we did not know existed until we were informed.

Silkworm and I can't stop smiling. It's been quite an appropriate Thanksgiving, thus far.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to Play The Picnic Game

This brain-melting game starts with a riddle and ends when the riddle is solved. The riddle is a pattern, and whoever is chosen to be the riddler creates the pattern by saying "I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing [blank]". He or she will repeat only that phrase to give clues that establish the chosen pattern. After each time a clue is given, anyone else who is playing may take a guess at the pattern, or ask for another clue. The trick for the guesser(s) is to find things all the clues have in common. The trick for the riddler is to use vague patterns and give clues that seem to have many things in common.

Here's a cheesy example for the sake of further explanation because I feel my instructions may sound messy:

Riddler: I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing mayonnaise.
Guesser: Sandwich things?
Wrong, so the riddler simply gives another clue, without saying anything else related to the game.
Riddler: I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing macaroni.
Guesser: Foods?
Wrong again, so the riddler gives another clue.
Riddler: I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing magic.
Guesser: Things that start with M!
Ding ding ding, we have a winner!

Notice how the riddler in this example starts off listing foods, even though the pattern is "things that start with M", to throw the guesser off. What a marvelous demonstration of manipulating technique!

When the guesser finally guesses the pattern, he or she may choose to switch roles or keep them the same. If the guesser forfeits, the riddler gets to decide on role-reversal. If you're the competitive type, you can call each guesser's wins a point and tally up your scores at the end.

Patterns should be reasonably factual rather than opinionated in order to be fair. For instance, you shouldn't really use "my favorite foods" as a pattern--that is, unless you want to see how well someone knows you!

- Riddlers may or may not use the Internet to look up creative patterns or clues.
- Guessers may or may not have a limited amount of guesses.
- The game may be played while the riddler and guesser(s) are separated (at school, at work, etc.), leaving the guesser to ponder the riddle and the riddler to brainstorm more clues. This suggestion is great for obscure, hard-to-decode patterns.

Pattern examples/ideas for inspiration:
- Animals that live in the desert (antelope, bat, camel, dingo...)
- Alternating between animals that have two legs and animals that have four legs (flamingo, coyote, blue jay, cat, toucan...)
- The weight of the objects you are "bringing to the picnic" increases with each clue (feather, leaf, stone, dog, elephant...)
- The riddler does not make eye contact while giving clues (using body language as a pattern can be very sneaky!)

Let us know what brilliant patterns you use and if any brains were melted!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reindeer Snowflake Pattern

We got this idea from a paper snowflake pattern link on Pinterest that sent me to, where we discovered the amazing Tim Latimer and his incredible snowflake designs. I tried to print out the reindeer pattern he created, but I fold my paper for making snowflakes differently than he does. He does have directions for the way he folds, but we figured, why not make our own pattern?

Of course, it's nowhere near as intricately beautiful as the original, but I think it's quite decent for a mimic! We made sure to scan our pattern before cutting it out (see the pencil drawing above), so you're more than welcome to use it! And if you do use it, or even make your own pattern, we'd be delighted to see some pictures or hear how it worked for you!

(I noticed I cut the top of one of the trees off on accident, but I guess fear not if you happen to do that because it doesn't seem to make much of a difference!)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Doro Worms

When we were walking around the yard earlier today back by the tiny strip of woods, Silkworm pointed out some kind of glittery-gold floss trailing through the grass. Of course we were intrigued, so we followed it--each and every loop and curve--and then all of a sudden, Silkworm stumbled and tripped into the nest of the doro worms.

Disturbing their nest caused somewhat of a fiasco. Dozens and dozens burrowed up from the ground and emerged like cranky old people squawking and squealing at us and gathering around Silkworm, now covered in golden thread, in an angry mob. They seemed particularly upset about our camera that we had with us, so I slung that over my shoulder behind me, trying to be polite.

The fattest worm wore a tiny crown and had dusty white caterpillar eyebrows which no other worm had. He stood before all the others, boldly bobbing up and down. We assumed that one was their leader and tried our best to communicate with him.

It took a bit of awkward translating--we drew pictures in the dirt with sticks and the one with the crown drew pictures by squirming around and leaving trails--but we were able to apologize and clarify the incident as an innocent mistake. The king introduced his species and explained that his colony thought we were intruders looking to plunder their home for their legendary golden thread, as it has happened many times before. Supposedly, it's not valuable for its color (it's not real gold), but for its fabled good luck. The worms simply use their thread for keeping warm and often produce too much to put to use, but ever since the myth spawned and spread, their species has been in constant danger. He told us our backyard is their thirteenth home in the last 200 sunsets, and they were only just getting settled in. Naturally, we felt terrible for scaring them and partially destroying their nest, so we helped them rebuild and then promised the worms their safety. In return, the king even offered us a spool of their famous thread, and he said we could have as much as we wanted if it meant his colony would be kept safe. They don't believe in the myth of its good luck, but the king said it was the only thing they had to give, and he wanted to thank us.

After all had been resolved, we cleaned Silkworm up and he and I went inside to plan and sketch blueprints for some kind of mini fortress. We are going to keep the doro worms very safe.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Felt Shooting Star

I found this tutorial from Twig and Toadstool last winter (again, before I had Silkworm) and fell head-over-heels in love with it. The post says it's for "the wee folk in your life", but while that very well may be, this is totally my kind of craft. I just found the star I made in my closet yesterday, and a blog post felt necessary in order to share the magic!

I could toss this thing around for hours! It's so calming to watch the ribbons flutter around, and then to feel it land in your hands, the spokes fitting perfectly in between your fingers, as if you were made to catch shooting stars. I'm telling you, this is better than those sparkly calming jars all over Pinterest. I made ours a little differently than Twig and Toadstool made theirs, so I wrote my own tutorial to share!

Any color felt
Any color ribbon(s) less than 1/4 inch wide
Sewing machine (or sewing needle and thread)
Pencil (or something to trace with that won't bleed)
Short piece of any-color string (embroidery thread will work)

Step One: Trace two stars on your felt (or just one and fold the felt in half). Cutting 1/6 inch away from the traced lines, cut them both out.

Step Two: Match the stars up together with the traced lines showing on the outsides. Sew them together like this on the traced lines, leaving an opening at one of the corners between two of the five spokes (see the sketch above).

Step Three: Turn the star inside-out through the opening. It may be tight, but it will work! Stick the eraser side of a pencil in there to poke the points out of their hiding spots.

Step Four: Stuff your star. Try to keep it flat if you want it to still look like a star, and make sure to get enough stuffing into the points! You can use the pencil again to help with this part. Be gentle so the felt doesn't stretch, and don't sew it closed yet!

Step Four: Cut 8-20 pieces of ribbon, depending on how thin your ribbon is (we used 1/4 inch ribbons and cut 8 pieces). Ours measure 2 feet and 3 1/2 inches, and they're literally the perfect size to us, but if you're going to cut yours any differently, I suggest longer!

Step Five: Take all of your pieces of ribbon (holding each at one end) and stack them on top of each other, then tie a knot around them about an inch or less from the ends with your short piece of string. This is going to hold them together while you sew them into your star.

Step Six: Thread your needle to prepare it for step eight.

Step Seven: Stick those ends of your bouquet of ribbons in the opening of your star, stuffing the knot you just tied up there, too. If your star needs any more stuffing, now's the time to add a little bit!

Step Eight: Take your needle and thread and sew the opening of your star closed, once and for all. Start sewing from the inside if you don't want your knot to show, and be sure to sew through the ribbons several times to hold them securely in place.

And voila, you're done! If there's anybody nearby willing to play with you, I strongly recommend a game of catch to test it out.

If I lost you, maybe it would be easier to follow Twig and Toadstool's tutorial. That's how I figured it out in the first place! Their family has tons more magical crafts as well, like leaf crowns and woodland fairies. If this shooting star is your kind of craft as much as it is mine, you might as well subscribe to them while you're at it!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Paper Snowflake Lights

It's getting to be the kind of chilly just-below-freezing weather that isn't worth it if it's not snowing, so Silkworm and I made it snow in my bedroom.

I think the snowflakes make such a sweet holiday feel for string lights. Silkworm and I keep our string lights up all year round (we use them in lieu of a night light), so it was nice to be able to decorate them to make them look even more special.

Paper (any kind)
Traditional string lights
Single-hole puncher
Snowflake-shaped hole puncher

Step One: Hole punch a bunch of snowflakes (enough for each bulb on your string lights).

Step Two: Use your single-hole puncher to punch holes in the centers of your snowflakes.

Step Three: Cut through to the hole in the center of each snowflake so you can open it to wrap it around the bulbs.

Step Four: Hang your string lights before adorning them with the snowflakes so you don't rip or damage them.

Step Five: Wrap each snowflake around each bulb on your string lights at the base. If your lights are not LED, make sure the snowflakes aren't touching the lights to prevent them from burning or starting a fire!

Now start singing Jingle Bells or something because you just cannot contain your holiday spirit at the sight of these cute wintery lights!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Christmas Countdown Chain

Last year, before I had Silkworm, I made a felt countdown chain for the month of Christmas December. It has 24 links for each day leading up to Christmas Day, and an extra 25th representing the jolly day of jingle bells and reindeer hoof prints itself. Not only did we hang it back up to use this year, but we figured we might as well write a tutorial!

2 different colors of felt
Fabric scissors
Sewing thread
Sewing machine (optional)
25 buttons
Embroidery (or sewing) needle
Embroidery (or sewing) thread

Step One: Cut out 50 strips of felt with your fabric scissors--25 strips of each color.

Step Two: Match up each strip of one color felt with a strip of the opposite color. Sew each pair all the way around the edges.

Step Three: Cut one slit in one end of each of your soon-to-be links, snipping through both strips of fabric. If you have buttons of varying sizes, make sure the slits are correspondingly various!

Step Four: Use your needle and thread and your crackerjack knot-tying skills to sew your buttons on the opposite ends of your strips.

Step Five: Button up your links to finally make a chain!

Have fun taking the links down one by one every morning until there's just one left--and it's Christmas!

- Sloppiness actually works out to be quite kitschy and cute. Plus, if you sew your fabric strips together a little too crookedly, you can always snip off the excess edges.
- Originally, I intended to use a bunch of retro Christmassy fabric with the felt, but lacking that and the funds to not lack it anymore, I settled for the wacky vintage buttons we had laying around. I think it came out a lot better than my original plan--so what I'm trying to say is be creative, even if you're missing ingredients!
- I know I said the sewing machine is optional, and it is, but I mean, wow, without a sewing machine, I think I'd still be working on this next Christmas.

I wonder what would have happened if Silkworm had helped me make this--how it would have been enchanted with his powers, I mean. The things we'll never know!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Roasted Acorn Squash Seeds

I love acorn squash. In my opinion, it shouldn't even classify as a squash because it tastes so much better than all the other squashes (of which I am not a fan). It's sweet and buttery and it's the perfect consistency for people like me who believe soft fluffy foods should not be stringy as well. What I did not know until recently, though, was that the seeds are edible, too, and they taste just as good as the flesh!

I was never a fan of pumpkin seeds, but I like acorn squash seeds because they have so much more seed than shell. Acorn squash seeds can be roasted the same way you'd roast pumpkin seeds, but Silkworm and I rely on our freshly-traditional oil-free technique.

Acorn squash seeds

Step One: Preheat your oven to 250°F-275°F.

Step Two: Separate the squash seeds from the guts. Do not wash the stray pieces of guts off--they're actually delicious!

Step Three: Spread the seeds out evenly on a baking sheet. Overlapping is fine and dandy, but try not to leave huge clumps because those won't cook crunchy.

Step Four: Sprinkle a bit of salt on your seeds (we used a small pinch for one acorn squash's worth of seeds).

Step Five: Stick them in the oven and set a timer for 8 minutes. Check up on them when it goes off, just to make sure they're not burning and to rescue any that are cooking faster than the rest. Set the timer for 3-5 minute intervals after that, checking up on them in between. Once most of them start turning very light brown, they're done!

Enjoy your yummy snack!
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